Chapter39 – Sleaze & Spooks - Hotel Budapest, 1975
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Chapter39 – Sleaze & Spooks - Hotel Budapest, 1975
Dear Readers, I'm sorry for the delay for this next chapter. This blog owner is ... [bites tongue] .. slow getting my stories out.
Says he's got so much work. I'd better not say what I really think.
A model of the then innovative Hotel Budapest
Anyway, here is the next – and final - episode of my employment at Hotel Budapest. As you will find, it ended in a sort of disaster. And, I have to admit, it was the start of a pattern in my life where the reason behind my troubles was all too often, as they say in French, cherchez la femme. In the last chapter, I described one level of nefarious goings on at this prestigous hostelry. But it gets worse.
Prostitution was, of course, illegal, and the police would raid, usually at least once a week. And the first people they would approach was us, the receptionists. Who are those girls who are regularly here? Have any new girls appeared on the scene? Can you point them out? Questions like that. They'd also quizz the bell boys, and then they'd go to the bar. Now you should understand, even though they were in plain-clothes, it was obvious from a mile away that they were cops. In the bar, they'd check the ID cards of all the ladies, and you know, in those days it was obligatory to have a job, which was entered into your ID. So, if the cops found anybody without a job, they took her out. But for the most part, these girls were registered as hairdressers, or manicurists or some such. Maybe in real life they were, but, in the evenings they spent their time in the bar, waiting for rich foreigners. And it wasn't to discuss the music of Béla Bartók. Everybody knew what they were really up to, but those officially employed were left in peace. Except, in return, they sometimes had to pass on information about their clients, or they would be sure to face a hard time. These girls hated the police. But there were one or two girls the police never questioned: because they were colleagues - police prostitutes. On reception, we'd get a message: Guest so-and-so must go to room 803 – a bugged room - and so it would be. And the regular prostitutes would understand when the police girls sidled up to their man - he's mine! None of the civilian girls interfered. But sometimes we did, quietly. If we knew one of their targets was a regular guest, especially a friendly one, we would somehow warn him. Of course, we daren't say the lady in the bar was an agent. Usually we said she'd got venereal disease. That was enough. There was one regular, an Italian cattle trader who'd come maybe four or five times a year. He always got himself a girl. One night – we weren't able to warn him - he went with one of the police women and, believe it or not, they ended up getting married. I don't really know whom she fell in love with, the guy or his purse - but they went off to Italy and she kept sending us picture postcards of Ravenna, her new home, and the family of her husband, and so on. The guy even knew about her, at least that's what she told us, but that was ok. Now, you might wonder if the Americans were interested in such goings-on – after all, I could see the work of the Hungarian intelligence services every night in front of my very eyes. Wow – they asked as if the third world war depended on it. “Very interesting, yes. Write more about the guests that are sent to those rooms, and what kind of equipment is there for eavesdropping?” But of course, I could never get in the bugging centre. No one ever could. They weren't interested in the girls, even though I had their names. Funny thing, the police girls seemed to like their jobs – I suppose they had good incomes. They had a steady police salary, and they were allowed to keep their earnings from their clients, which must have made them a pretty penny. Their big, common complaint was having to write reports, I guess, to their chiefs about what they noticed or heard. They hated the reports and the admin work. but I never heard them complain about their job, only about administration. Well, I had this steady job, with its bonanza every night from the various 'revenue streams' that we exploited, when one day, I think I was on the day shift, a Scottish dentist from Birmingham, England turned up as a guest. She was driving, and she handed over her keys and asked me to get the car washed. It was a Vauxhall, I think, and this incident would have been about September-October, 1975. Well, in the car wash I hit the brakes late, and damaged the front bumper. Nothing serious, but I had to have it fixed, which I arranged. But I still felt a bit bad, so I asked her if she'd like to go out that night and see Budapest. As a result, we met up and hit the town. We had a good time and as I accompanied her back to the hotel, she invited me up to her room. Now we hotel workers were meant to be friendly and polite to guests, but getting into relationships was definitely not on the hospitality treatment list. In addition, there were strict rules: no staff were allowed on the premises outside their working hours. So, outside the hotel, we split up. She went in the main door and up to her room, I followed, by the staff entrance at the back – I had a quiet word with the lady doorkeeper to keep mum, “of course Gabi, of course” she agreed with a little monetary help – and I joined the Scottish dentist for the night. Maybe it was on account of exhaustion, but the next morning I needed to lie in, while my new-found friend got up and went down for breakfast.
And then, like something out of a comedy film, the room maid let herself in, only to find someone still in bed – me. And within 24 hours, everyone in the hotel knew that Gábor Rimner had spent the night in the room of the Scottish dentist. For a week or so, I thought I'd got away with it. My boss said nothing. Then, one day, she called me over and said: “Gabor, you've no need to come in next month.” I looked at her surprised. “Why?” I asked. “Gábor, you don't need me to tell you. Just don't come in for work.” And that was that. Goodbye Hotel Budapest.
For a few weeks, I got another hotel job in the Volga, on Vaci ut, District 13. This was used mainly by guests from the Soviet Union. But I wasn't there long. One of my wife's relatives worked at OTP Bank, and shocked that I – fluent in Arabic and English - was cleaning hotel rooms for a living (all starters had to begin at the bottom), arranged for me to have an interview for a trainee bank position. “Our bank has many European and Arabic clients,” she said, “And not many of our staff speak languages. We need people like you.” And so it was that in November that year, I was invited for an interview at OTP Bank's HQ, funnily enough, in Münnich Ferenc utca, a minute's walk from Elektroimpex, my former employer.